By Trevann Hamilton, Dancehall Mag,
Following the uproar about Billboard omitting fan favorites Beenie Man and Bounty Killer from their Verzuz Effect cover, the hashtag #TimeNow is being used by some Jamaican entertainers to call for respect from digital streaming platforms, international media, and award shows.
The message, signed by “the Jamaican Music Industry” has been reposted many times by artistes and entertainers like Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Jada Kingdom, Noami Cowan, and ZJ Sparks.
The caption of the post says: “No need for a history lesson, #Reggae and #Dancehall have been beating the drum and bass loudly for decades and had you all nodding heads and whining waists. We birthed Hip Hop, Reggaeton, spawned Dance music genres and influenced countless sub-cultures that all went through gates that remain closed to us. You continue to ignore the source.”
“Prominence and priority is given to derivatives of our music, yet we are mostly excluded from premium pages of the major streaming services. Two pillars of our music – Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, raised and set the bar for Verzuz (an idea based on our sound system culture.) Their streams went up 216% (2nd highest of all Verzuz battle participants). You continue to make the argument that our music doesn’t sell or stream well but who is going to listen to what they can’t find?”
The posts are a series of photos. The first is a black background with the #TimeNow hashtag in white, followed by a statement on the unfair treatment of Dancehall artistes on streaming platforms.
“For decades we have been waging a battle for slots at commercial radio. When streaming arrived, we hoped for a level playing field but it seems we have a bigger fight on our hands. We are left on the outside while the party is going on inside. #TimeNow you opened the door and let us in.”
The statement says there is a viable market for Dancehall and Reggae music and so the genres shouldn’t be neglected by the various streaming platforms. The posts highlight the fact that the streaming services do not allow Jamaican artistes to shine because the platforms do not actively promote their music.
“Without major label backing we have zero chance of being on New Music Friday or Feelin’ Myself or Mood Booster, the post continues. “Our #s will not reflect our popularity if the consumers cannot find us. #TimeNow you let the consumers discover our new music too”.
“Jamaican artistes also stand to lose out on opportunities and endorsements because the streaming numbers don’t reflect their popularity, reach or impact.” According to the post, “Potential partners (labels, endorsements) love our vibe but look at our #s on your platforms and think that nothing is happening for us.”
The post also highlights the fact that some of the streaming services aren’t available in the region. For example, Spotify is not available in Jamaica, and so Jamaicans living on the island won’t be able to stream their favorite dancehall songs from the platform.
The creators of the posts are demanding that the streaming services hire “curators, programmers, and decision-makers who a part of our culture and will actively promote and support it.”
They also asked for record labels to employ executives who are from the culture and have a great understanding of it so the Jamaican music products created can be marketed well.
More inclusion in award shows is another ask of the post.
“Award shows celebrate amazing Black music, but not ours. Much of what you are awarding comes from us yet you keep overlooking the source. Our music is seen as spice to flavour Awards shows. We need to be on the main menu. #TimeNow for us to get the nod.”
Finally, the ‘Jamaica Music Industry’ turned their attention to international publishers. “Media platforms tell us our Artists and stories are too niche when we are among the most vibrant, creative people on the planet. #TimeNow you opened your pages to us.”
“Our #s will reflect our popularity if the consumers cannot find us. #TimeNow for you all to remove us from the imaginary box you have us in.”
While this conversation isn’t new, it’s especially important now because Jamaican artistes can’t tour or have any form of physical shows due to COVID-19.
Main photo: Bounty Killer and Beenie Man